The Ultimate Resolution Solution

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Get there, this year!

By Raymond Onyango.

New-Years-ResolutionI hope you all had a great start to the year 2013. I know that many of you have made fitness resolutions this year, like every year before it, and I also know that the vast majority of you will fail to keep those resolutions. This is not prophetic, its fact. Exercise attrition rates are notoriously high within the global health and fitness industry.New Years Resolutions Are Easily Broken Here in United States of America it is estimated that up to half of all individuals that take up an exercise program at the beginning of the year drop out within the first 6 to 8 weeks of commencing their training.

This is what we are going to address over the course of this article, and it is my hope that when you’re done reading this you will be armed with a few ideas to keep you from faltering along the way. Maybe 2013 will be the year when you finally make it happen, and here is how:

Get Social

Get SocialSocializing is the key to long-term exercise success. As a matter of fact, one things I do religiously with all my personal training clients is to introduce them to as many other gym members as possible. Even in my group exercise classes I make a point of learning my students names and referring to each individual by name throughout the course of the class. I do this because I realized early in my career that my most successful clients were invariably the ones who had a strong social support network. I learned that connecting my clients to other gym members in a meaningful way gives them a strong sense of belonging, helps to make them feel more at ease on the gym floor and ultimately leads them to cultivate an more enduring fitness habit. Friendship is a powerful thing, and when you have friends at the gym, who are Friends Help You Maintain An Exercise Habitcommitted to exercise you will be more inclined to go there often rather than duck into a pub immediately after work. Your gym friends will look out for you when you don’t show up and they will encourage you when you feel like giving up. So this year when you go to gym, leave your Ipod behind and avoid the temptation to plug the world out; instead go out and make the effort to meet new people. Join a group class, pick up a sport or get a personal trainer. Anything that will allow you to expand your social circle and take the monotony out of exercise. Trust me, you will be more successful for it!

Watch your Sugar Intake

Fat FreeFat has long been the whipping boy of the fitness industry; so much so that a whole industry has been born with regards to fat reduced food. We now have fat free milk, low fat cookies and fat reduced yogurt, just to name a few. Labeling foods ‘fat free’ has been an outrageously successful marketing gimmick, but it has so far been unsuccessful in stemming the tide of rising obesity rates worldwide because most fat free foods are laden with sugar to substitute for the loss of flavor when fat is removed. Here in the United States of America you will find a form of sugar known as high fructose corn syrup in just about every food product on the supermarket shelves form macaroni and cheese to ketchup and bread. The result is that Americans onRethink Your Drink average consume about 22 spoonfuls of sugar everyday. It’s no wonder that almost half of the entire American population are classified as obese. This over consumption of sugar spikes your body’s production of the hormone insulin, which in turn controls your blood sugar by mopping up the excess sugar and converting it to fat. This means you can eat all the fat free products you like, but inevitably you will still gain weight unless you make an effort to reduce the overall amount of processed foods in your everyday diet.

Drop your goals

Yes you heard me right! Throw out the scale, ditch the tape measure and put away the fitness magazines. The best thing you can do for yourself right now is to make the commitment to move everyday. Fitness goals are great, for motivation, but they can also create a disconnect that leads us to think of exercise as something that is separate from our everyday lives. I know for a fact that 90% of the battle to stay in shape comes down to lifestyle change. We are not talking killer workouts in Aim for consistencythe gym here; we are talking about creating opportunities for movement in your everyday life. Walking when you can as opposed to driving everywhere, getting active with your kids or spouse by turning off the television and playing a game of touch football or taking the dogs out for a walk. Many countries in the developed world have virtually engineered movement out human life. I still shudder every time I walk into a supermarket here in America, where they even have motorized shopping carts for individuals who are literally too obese to get around a supermarket on their own feet! It’s shocking!

Daily activity is what serves to bridge the gap between the amount of calories you take in and the quantity that you burn. You want to make it your first aim to accumulate at least 30 minutes of physical activity of whatever kind everyday. If you can do that and then throw in 3 supplementary, hour-long workouts every week, you will see the pounds drop off without too much fuss.  My overall philosophy in fitness is to strive for consistency and not to worry about numbers. If you dwell on pounds and inches you become shortsighted and invariably you loose your way. But if you strive for consistency, the numbers will always add up in the end. Have a fabulous and successful  year 2013.

Be Your Best Self

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Your Roadmap To Fitness In 2012

By Raymond Onyango.

I love this time of year. I love the sense of opportunity it brings. It’s a great chance to wipe the slate clean, to make a new beginning. It is an excellent time of year to put into action a strategy that will see you end the year fitter, healthier and looking better than you do now.  Of course many of us have already made big promises to ourselves this January. We have promised to loose weight and get into shape, we’ve promised ourselves we will eat better this year, get up early in the morning and take a walk around the block if not a jog. But the ugly truth us that we did this last year too, and maybe the year before…and we failed! Some of us failed because we didn’t put our plans into action. We simply talked about it, harbored good intentions but never made the effort, and an even greater number of us failed because we didn’t have a plan in the first place!

Not having a plan is, essentially setting yourself up for failure. My experience as a personal trainer has taught me that the great majority gym users are highly resistant to the idea of planning our fitness activities according to a schedule. Most will refuse to submit to an evaluation and of the few that do, a very small handful actually go ahead and make use of the programs I write. In fact most of the time as I write out my fitness programs I am aware that they will hardly be followed if at all; that the client will just as soon cast the program aside and prefer to work out in a totally random pattern. ‘I got bored’, is answer I get the most when I ask why? Another popular one is, ‘ I just don’t have the time’. What is clear from these answers is that the majority of us fail because we are both insufficiently stimulated and interested in exercise to get a regular rhythm up and going, or other wise way too ambitious in the scope of what we are trying to achieve in a very short time frame.

I have also come to learn there are two important things that are hugely motivating as far as adherence to an exercise program is concerned.The first of these is that you can only transform your body by choosing activities you really enjoy. Forget what you have heard about ‘no pain, no gain’. Truth is that most of us will bolt away from a fitness program the moment we perceive it to be painful or punishing. The other thing is that effort and progress are not always inversely proportional to each other. Many of us, I daresay the majority of us, put in lots of effort, but have very little to show for it. Many of the fellows who spend 3 hours at the gym are not exactly in great shape.

You could of course change all that this year, through this simple, cost efficient and hugely interesting approach to fitness, incorporating just 3 simple concepts that guarantee you a better body by the end of this year.

Here they are:

Cardio

The human body is a cardiovascular machine, the heart is the engine of the whole thing, and it runs the show, literally! That is why Cardiac arrest or heart attacks claim so many victims every year. If your heart stopped beating for just 3 minutes, you are almost certain to suffer serious brain damage, just 5 or 6 minutes and certain death is on the cards. But the heart can also kill you slowly, lack of Physical activity and poor nutritional habits often combine to impair heart function, courtesy of elevated cholesterol levels that coat our arteries with plaque, creating hypertension and precipitating strokes, heart attacks and metabolic diseases like diabetes.

The culprit is the kind of fat which settles around the waistline, also known as Visceral fat. Of the two types of body fat Subcutaneous, meaning under the skin, is the easiest to get rid of and most visible. Women in particular experience this as cellulite in the hips, thighs and under arms. IT may be a major cause of concern from a purely cosmetic viewpoint but it hold far fewer dangers for us than the other kind of fat; Visceral fat, which can hide even in slim individuals tucked around internal organs, such as the liver, from where it easily finds its way up to your heart…sending you to an early grave.

Men are statistically more likely than women to suffer heart disease precisely because they mostly carry their extra weight around the waist. In women of postmenopausal age incidence of heart disease and metabolic disorders increase when the body’s estrogen production shuts down. In younger women a link has been established between obesity and growing incidence of breast cancer. Anyway you look at it, the truth is that you cannot afford to miss out on cardiovascular exercise, the question is how to do it in a sustainable manner.

My number one suggestion is to pick an activity and build your fitness program around it. It doesn’t matter what it is, golf, soccer, jogging, basketball, squash. The only qualification is that you must enjoy it sufficiently enough to stay interested and stimulated. Most of us stop playing games right after high school or collage; right about the same time we begin to put on excess weight around the waistline. Games are fun because you move for movement’s sake, you are not counting calories or observing your heart rate, you are simply running after the ball because it feels good to score.  Games also fulfill many of our needs as well, we make good friends on the neighborhood soccer team or the squash ladder at the gym; and because so many people hold us accountable if we don’t show up, we are more likely to stay consistent. It works!

My number two suggestion is, ‘ get yourself an ipod, if you don’t already have one’. The ipod has revolutionized the way the world keeps fit; thanks to the power it gives its users to create individualized play lists. I have play lists on my Ipod for every conceivable situation, some that pick me up when I am under motivated, others I use for speed runs others yet for slow hills. In my spin classes’ participants will gladly make it up the most brutal hills if the music is great because outside of play, music is the one other powerful force that motivates human beings to move. An ipod can make you enjoy running, it can turn a stationery bike on the gym floor into something alive and happening, because good music is fun, and its motivating.

Strength Training

From the very moment our ancestors got off their front paws and took to walking on two feet, the human race has been locked in a constant struggle with a silent but ever present force called gravity. The entire human machine is held upright and manually operated thanks to a mind-boggling number of skeletal muscles all of which function together to maintain posture and generate movement. Skeletal muscles operate on a ‘use it or loose it’ principle. Its simple, if you use your muscles actively on a regular basis they remain strong, defined and up to the task of holding you upright and facilitating your movement. However in a world where many of us spend the better part of our day seated behind a desk, muscle wasting begins in our early 30’s. Each year on average we loose one pound of muscle and gain much more in fat, thanks to our sedentary lives. In a few years, back pain is almost a given, with up to 90 percent of all men experiencing some kind of back pain in their lifetimes, while aches and pains in the weight bearing joints of the knee and hips tend to affect women more often caused by a combination of uncontrolled weight gain and poor footwear choices such as high heels among other reasons. Along with your muscles, your bones also get more brittle and thin as you age. With better medical care human life spans are increasing, which means many of us are living long beyond the age our bones we initially designed to work. Bone fractures sustained from taking a fall are one of the leading causes of injury in individuals over the age of 65; many of them also have to cope with degenerative bone diseases such as arthritis and its precursor osteoporosis.

Strength training on a regular basis from an early age can greatly improve your quality of life in your senior years…and make no mistake, you will get old someday! The simplest movements are often the most effective. Push ups, Lunges, Plank, Cycling, Squats, Dips, pull ups..None of these exercises require any special equipment. The burglar proofing grill in your house will do for pull ups, you can do push ups on the floor, a dinning char will come in handy for the dips while the squats and lunges need no equipment save for your own bodyweight.

Talking of bodyweight, I am a dyed in the wool believer in bodyweight training also known as calisthenics. I have always maintained that my clients have no business getting on an isotonic gym machine or lifting weights until they have some mastery over their own body weight. The reasoning behind this is informed by belief that what you do in the gym should serve you well outside the gym. A good program needs to help you live your life better. It should definitely make you look better, but is should also improve your health and boost your energy levels on the job. For this reason you need to perform exercises that challenge you to remain aware of what your body is doing, so that you can learn from there how to correct your posture or lift a load carefully without overloading your spine, or sling a travel bag on your shoulder without throwing out your lower back.

Do not listen to anyone who tells you that you cannot build muscle tone from bodyweight exercises alone…even the worlds most elite military cadets are still trained primarily through basic body weight exercises such as pull ups and pushups, and we you can see for yourself how fit they are! The beauty of a bodyweight based strength exercise program is that you can take it everywhere with you. For instance you can do it at home in your bedroom or on the roadside after your jog anywhere you can find some space you will be able to workout, and that will help you stay true. If you need some ideas to get you started look at great websites such as crossfit.com, suddenly the whole world can become your playground!

Stretch

Your entire body, the whole of it is clothed in a translucent, tough sheath of connective tissue known as the myofascial sheath. Its helps muscles glide over each other during movement and also gives shape and structure to the muscles themselves. As we grow older however this tissue looses it pliability and alignment, restricting physical movement, binding muscles and nerves and creating pain in countless number of ways.

In yoga philosophy we hold that the body is the ultimate receptacle and store of all emotional energy, both positive and negative. It explains why your body language often speaks loudly even when your words don’t. Your good friends will tell when you have had a bad day from your drooping shoulders and defeated posture. On a good day you will walk taller, posture has a lot to do with confidence! Whatever the case regular stretching is the only way to gently realign your muscle fibers, release trapped nerves and keep all manner of body aches at bay.

One ingredient you need to stretch safely and successfully is heat. Never attempt to stretch cold muscles like I see so many people do in the gym. Heat is what enables your muscles to stretch safely by increasing their pliability, much the same way a glass blower manipulates molten glass into countless fascinating shapes – heat is the core ingredient. On a practical level this means you should save your deep stretching for the end of your work out during cardiovascular exercise or do it in between the sets of your strength exercise while your muscles are at their warmest.

The other thing that really influences a good stretch is your breathing. Each successful stretch should held for a period of time accompanied by at least 5 to 10 deep slow breaths. Breathing in this manner clams down your nervous system and inhibits the involvement of specialized nerve cells known as muscle spindles, which are embedded deep in your muscle belly and act to trigger muscular contractions. If you watch a man dozing on a chair, you will see him involuntarily jerk his head up every time the muscles spindles kick in.

The Golgi tendon organ on the other hand, which is also composed of specialized nerve cells embedded in your muscles does the opposite, by acting to get your muscles to relax and stretch further so as to avoid injury. By regulating your breathing you can get much deeper into any stretch without running the risk of injury. Stretching is something we should aim to do everyday or at a minimum, 3 times a week. Try a yoga class; once or twice a week this year and it will have a profound effect on your mobility.

Next week we begin to look at how we can take these concepts and turn them into reality! Until then, have an inspired week, will you!